Walter Mondale's attitude toward civil rights is based on the belief that government should offer minorities a helping hand, boosting them up to overcome the effects of discrimination.

Federal agencies, according to Mondale position papers, should not be strictly colorblind. They should take active measures to ensure that blacks and other minorities get their fair share of jobs, housing, education, etc.

Thus Mondale says he has been ''a leading defender'' of the use of busing to desegregate schools. He agrees with Democratic platform language that calls for affirmative action goals, timetables, and ''other verifiable measures'' to fight job discrimination.

Mondale aides say their man is a civil rights activist in the '60s tradition. When he was a state attorney general, Mondale ''organized the first civil rights demonstration in Minnesota history,'' claims a campaign report, ''on the steps of the Capitol in St. Paul in 1962.''

At the 1964 Democratic convention, Mondale ''led the fight'' to integrate Mississippi's all-white delegation, adds the report.

As a senator, Mondale's most active involvement in civil rights issues occurred during 1968, when he introduced a historic open housing amendment, which became law despite a filibuster led by Sen. Sam Ervin (D) of North Carolina. He was also an original cosponsor (one of 66) of the Voting Rights Act when it first passed, in 1965.

As vice-president, Walter Mondale ''took a leading role'' in a number of civil rights actions, claims his campaign report. Among them: an increase in government contracts for minority businesses, an increase in federal deposits in minority-owned banks, and the appointment of ''more blacks to the federal judiciary than all previous administrations combined.''

Mondale, as a candidate for President, has sniped at the administration for its waffling on the Votings Rights Act and initial backing of tax exemptions for segregated schools. His position on the sensitive issue of affirmative action in employment is somewhat less clear.

The Democratic candidate's campaign report says he supports ''taking strong action against discrimination in the workplace, through pay equity and other initiatives.'' The language of the Democratic platform adds the words ''verifiable measures,'' when it talks about fighting job discrimination.

But Mondale aides say their man does not support strict numerical quotas.

Earlier this year, Mondale said that the first civil rights action he would take, if elected, would be to fire all the US civil rights commissioners Ronald Reagan had hired and hire back the panelists Reagan had dispatched. Under the new law governing the US Civil Rights Commission, however, presidents can no longer fire and hire members at will. Commissioners can only be removed for dereliction of duty.

Now Mondale simply pledges that, if elected, he will appoint civil rights commissioners who ''believe in the civil rights initiatives of the past two decades.'' He also supports a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women - an initiative Reagan has long opposed.

''As a candidate for President of the United States, Mondale has made a renewed attack on discrimination of every kind a central focus of his campaign, '' concludes his campaign paper.

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